CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Jim Justice has signed a bill passed by the West Virginia Legislature to reduce the toll of tobacco in the state, but the American Cancer Society (ACS CAN) said in a release that the legislature missed a big opportunity by cutting the funding that was originally included that would have boosted programs to prevent tobacco use.
The release stated that ACS CAN is proud to have worked with the bill sponsors and thanks Delegate Daryl Cowles and Delegate Mick Bates for their leadership.
The bill, House Bill 4494, will create a task force that will recommend and monitor the establishment and management of programs that are found to be effective in the reduction of all tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, with a strong focus on the prevention of children and young adults’ use of tobacco products, according to the release.
The release stated that the legislation as passed by the House provided a funding stream to support the task force. The legislation would have directed 25% of the previous year’s interest earnings from the revenue shortfall reserve fund part B into a new special revenue program fund, according to the release. ACS CAN officials said that while tobacco use driven by the e-cigarette epidemic is skyrocketing among youth, the legislature has ultimately chosen not to increase funding for tobacco prevention programs.
The release said that Delegate Cowles and Delegate Bates joined forces to work in a bipartisan fashion to help refocus resources in West Virginia in an effort to improve the health of the state, where currently 4,300 adults die each year from smoking-related illnesses. West Virginia still has the highest adult smoking rate in the country and the youth e-cigarette pandemic is continuing to grow.
“Properly funding these programs could have reduced tobacco use rates, and ultimately combated tobacco-related illness and death,” said Juliana Frederick Curry, government relations director, ACS CAN. “We thank the legislature for taking this first step and look forward to working with the sponsors and the legislature to increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs in the future.”
The release stated that ACS CAN, along with its health partners and volunteers are urging Governor Justice to sign this legislation into law and to add funding to support the task force, and the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation programs as soon as possible.